Best Dog Training Treats
Dog training treats give your dog a reason to learn and improve–with the right type of yummy snack, you can even teach an old dog new tricks! Here are some of the training treats for dogs that are the most popular with pets–and their owners, both.
It is not always easy being a dog owner. Our furry friends can often have quite a lot of spirit, and be rowdy, naughty, energetic, and all too curious. And in order to save you some nerves and to ensure a normal and safe life for your pet, you’ll have to do some basic training. Even if your pup is well-behaved on his own, you still have to set up some basic rules and boundaries to help them have a much-needed structure in their life.
At first, you might be clueless about how to make your pet obey the commands and do the things you’d like willingly. Professional trainers are expensive and can detach you from your pet, eliminating the chance of bonding and the necessary familiarity between the dog and the owner. So when you decide to take matters into your own hands, you will want a training method that you can rely on. And the key lies in dog training treats!
Why do I need dog treats?
The secret to successfully training your dog is relying on rewards. And for our companions, the best kind of reward is the one they can eat! That is why it is important to find the kind of training treats that your dog will enjoy. This will encourage your pet to willingly work towards that reward, and that is how training is done. For every job well done, your pet receives his favorite little snack, and soon enough you will have a well-behaved, calm, and healthy dog by your side.
What should I be aware of when giving my dog treats?
Of course, your treat-dispensing should be done in moderation. You don’t want to go all out and give them freely and whenever. This can cause obesity and be counterproductive for your training efforts, so keep that in mind. You can easily calculate the needed calorie intake for your dog, and give treats and foods accordingly. Even so, there are plenty of choices on the market that are light, balanced in nutrition, and surprisingly low on calories.
And the best part? You don’t have to rely on a never-ending supply line of treats. Contrary to popular belief, treats won’t always be necessary. You don’t have to worry about your dog depending on treats. You control that. When you see that your training has been successful and your pup is doing the right things on his own, you can slowly start weaning them off of treats, step by step, until they are thinned out to only special occasions.
Of course, as with all things pet related, giving treats needs to be done responsibly and with care. We’ll help you with some tips and important insights, but we will also guide you to the very best dog training treats that are on the market today, making the difficult choice so much easier.
1. Editor’s Pick: Duke & Daisy Gourmet Jerky Dog Square Treats
These tasty jerky treats are a great healthy option, made with all-natural ingredients. The formula has no wheat or soy, nor gluten, corn or fillers. It is made from USA-sourced meat and comes in slowly roasted, naturally smoked beef flavor. These small squares are perfectly sized and easy to dispense, and best of all they smell and taste great. The dogs just love them. They come in packages of roughly 500 grams (16 oz) which proves to be quite a generous supply. These treats are a great source of protein and fat and since the squares are inch by inch in size, and can be broken into smaller pieces, these square treats are a good choice for any size dog.
2. Runner Up: Pet Botanics Training Reward
The low calorie treats from Pet Botanics are a great choice for larger breeds. With pork liver being the main ingredient, you can rest assured that your pooch is having a reliable source of vitamins and proteins in his diet. They are made locally in the USA and come in packages of 20 ounces (560 grams). Training Reward can be purchased in three distinct versions. The regular, the Mini which is designed for small breeds and puppies, and the grain-free version. It can also be bought in four flavors – beef, chicken, salmon, and bacon. These tasty treats come in little cylinder shapes, making them easy to carry in your pocket and dispense when needed.
3. Customer’s Choice: Blue Buffalo Wilderness Trail Treats Wild Bits
These tiny treats are fantastic training food, and on top of that, they are quite healthy. Wild Bits are made from chicken meat and potatoes and contain no gluten at all. Moreover, their formula includes fish oil, which is the source of DHA – a highly important acid to help with your pet’s cognitive development. The treats are also rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. These ensure healthy skin and a shiny coat. Blue Buffalo also offers Duck meat treats, and they both come in four and 10 ounces bags. Small and meaty, these training treats are suited to dogs of all sizes and ages.
4. Best Grain Free: Merrick Power Bites
These Merrick training treats come in three distinct flavors – beef, chicken, and turducken, and are among the best-known brands on the market. The soft and chewy all-natural treats contain no gluten and no sorbic acid and are completely grain-free. They are also packed with important omega fatty acids and have high levels of glucosamine and chondroitin, both of which are important for healthy joints. Another thing these treats are loved for is their star shape, which comes in perfect bite-sized pieces: these medium-sized morsels make a tasty bite-sized treat for dogs of most breeds, big and small. Their strong smell is especially adored by dogs.
5. Best for Small Dogs: Bil-Jac Little-Jacs Small Dog Chicken Liver Training Dog Treats
For small breeds and puppies, these Little Jacs are a great choice. An important source of protein, and cut to small pieces, these treats are made from chicken liver and have that perfectly attractive smell. They come in handy 16 ounce (460 grams) bags which can be resealed to ensure freshness over time. In each package there are roughly 450 treats, so you know you’ll be safe for a while- with the size of the cubes varying from 5mm to 8mm, these mini treats are small enough even for puppies, which makes them perfect for training purposes. Even though they are small, these treats can work for big breeds too – giving them just a little nibble when there is plenty of training and plenty of need to reward.
6. Best Natural: Crump’s Naturals Mini Trainers
These Canadian treats are made from locally sourced beef liver which is cut into cubes and freeze-dried. This is the direct product and a healthy, natural treat for your dog. Freeze-dried and without any additives, this beef liver retains its natural taste and all nutrition. Beef liver is good for maintaining a strong immune system, and a balanced level of vitamins in the body. Crump’s Mini Trainers are the all-natural choice on the market that actually means completely natural with no extras added- and dogs will absolutely adore these delicious cubes.
7. Best Gluten Free: Buckley All Natural Buckley Trainers All Natural Grain-Free Dog Training Treats
These grain-free dog training treats from Buckley are surprisingly low on calories – each treat has only 4 calories! They also contain no artificial flavors or preservatives and are gluten-free. Semi moist and bite-sized, these natural dog treats make a great reward for dogs of any size or age. These treats come in four flavors, chicken, bacon, salmon, and… peanut butter! Yes, this is a step away from meat-based flavors, but it is nonetheless a tasty, healthy, and refreshing alternative to the usual tastes – besides, dogs love them some PB. Buckley’s treats are perfectly sized to fit in your pocket and are a healthy and tasty choice.Semi moist and bite-sized, these natural dog treats make a great reward for dogs of any size or age.
8. Honorable Mention: Cloud Star Chewy Tricky Trainers Liver Flavor Dog Treats
Designed as the perfect training treats, these Tricky Trainers are a record-breaker when it comes to low calories. Each treat has just 3 calories, and that’s the lightest option on the market! These bite-sized treats are made from chicken liver and contain no artificial ingredients or gluten. They also have a refined, soft texture that is chewy and won’t crumble and leave a mess. Tricky Trainers contain a minimum of 10% protein, which certainly comes in handy after those energetic days spent outside. These scrumptious treats are soft and chewy and perfectly bite-sized so they suit dogs of all sizes.
9. Also Consider: Blue Buffalo BLUE Bits Natural Soft-Moist Training Dog Treats
These tiny treats are designed for puppies and small dogs and will be a perfectly healthy treat for those just starting their basic training. Without any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, these heart-shaped treats are a perfectly healthy choice. They come in three versions – chicken, beef, and a mix of the two. With added DHA, these treats are perfect for puppies, as they help with cognitive development from an early age. Blue Buffalo remains one of the finest brands in the market, and the dogs’ love of these treats just confirms it!
10. Contender: Crazy Dog Train-Me! Training Reward Mini Dog Treats
These Train-Me treats from Crazy Dog are low calorie treats made entirely in the USA. Crazy Dog is one of the oldest and well-respected brands on the market, and their treats are proven to be loved by all dog breeds. These come in chicken, beef, and bacon versions, and contain no corn, soy, or artificial components. Besides being low calorie, they are also low on fat, which makes them a good light treat. Moreover, their regular 16-ounce packaging is among the most affordable on the market, making it a great choice when the budget is tight. And since these protein-packed tidbits are designed to be a reward for training, they are small enough so you can dole them out- regardless of your pet’s size or age.
11. Zuke’s Mini Naturals Peanut Butter & Oats Recipe Training Dog Treats
Who doesn’t love a PB treat? With peanut butter as its first ingredient, these treats are not just mouthwateringly tasty, but they are also a good choice for dogs with food sensitivities that don’t digest chicken or beef well- peanut butter can be a fantastic alternative. Soft and chewy, these training treats are enriched by wholesome and nourishing ingredients such as oats and turmeric, and are made locally in the USA. What’s more, the treats contain no corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, or flavors! With just under 3 kcal per treat, they are also completely guilt-free and suited even for dogs struggling to maintain their weight. The mini size of the treats makes them suited for dogs of all ages and sizes.
12. Wellness Soft Puppy Bites Lamb & Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dog Treats
Wholesome, all-natural, and bite-sized, these grain-free dog treats make a perfect reward for a job well done. The formula is specially made for dogs under one year of age, which means that it is packed with all the essential nutrients a young puppy needs, such as EPA and DHA, essential fatty acids crucial for cognitive development. Made from lamb and salmon, these treats contain no no meat by-products, corn, wheat, dairy, artificial colors or flavors. Perfectly sized for puppies, these treats are soft and can be enjoyed even by doggos with tiny baby teeth. And even though these treats are nutrient-dense, each piece is just 6 kcal- so feel free to be generous when rewarding your four-legged student!
Basic Tips for Using Dog Treats for Training
Ensuring your dog remains happy and healthy during the training is not as hard as it might seem, and your success rate will depend on several key factors. As it is with all things you will want to find a balanced middle ground and keep in mind that everything needs to be done in moderation, and this is especially true when it comes to the treats! Treating your pupper is the easiest thing ever, but it doesn’t mean you should do it willy nilly. Follow some of these tips to ensure success:
Consider the calories
Keeping track of the number of calories that your pet consumes per day is one of the most reliable ways to prevent obesity and make sure your dog stays healthy. Excess calories can gradually lead to your pet becoming overweight, and that is no good. Some of the most serious health hazards for dogs are related to obesity. When it comes to treats, they should always be given in moderation, and shouldn’t go over 10% of total calorie intake for the day. To successfully find out this percentage, you can use some of the common calorie calculators.
To make sure your dog doesn’t gain weight because of his training, you can rely on a variety of low-calorie dog treats which are developed especially for these situations. And of course, regular exercise and walks are mandatory to maintain a healthy physique of your dog, as they are a great way to actually burn off those added calories from dog treats. Either way, the message is the same – simply don’t overdo it. Another common issue if you overdo the treats is that your dog can easily gain a craving for them, and will ignore his standard food because of this. In order to prevent this, you can treat them with regular food, with just a small amount of treats added in between.
Don’t bribe your dog
One thing that is really important to understand when using training treats is to avoid “bribe”. How can you bribe your dog? Your pet needs to understand that a treat is his reward for a task well done. If your stubborn four-legged friend refuses to perform a task, and only then you reach for the treats to stimulate them, that is considered a bribe, and it is the totally wrong approach to training. The dynamic here should be clear – the treat is there only as a reward for a task completed. When your pet refuses to obey until he sees the treat, you need to fix things. You will need to focus on the way you set up the training process, and avoid luring your pet with food. The treat should be hidden until the task is done. Luckily, most dogs will do them willingly and properly, knowing that the tasty treat awaits after.
Phase them out!
It is easy to hand out treats often. Some owners find it hard to resist those little shows our furry companions tend to put on when craving a treat. But even if it is hard for you, you must remember that you won’t always hand out treats. Your dog and its obedience cannot depend on them. So, in order to successfully prevent this, you will need to slowly and gradually “wean” them off – or phase the treats out. When you reach around 90% of success with your pet, and the training is successful, you can start to cut the treats out gradually. You can also slowly replace them with the regular food while mixing a bit of the treat inside. Either way, you need to reach that level of success in which you know a command will be obeyed without the treats involved.
Another fantastic reward system that should come in the place of treats is real life rewards. This is a great next step you should take to really stimulate your pet. A good example is going outside. When your dog stands by the door excitedly, urge him to perform a task – for example to sit calmly. Once the task is complete – the reward is the opened door! This is a great way to phase out treats successfully and creatively.
Why Using Rewards Pays Off
There are numerous benefits of the reward system in training your pet – be it treats or real life rewards. This method provides several key benefits to building a healthy relationship between you and your pet, and in creating a healthy life and environment for both of you. And with the peculiar temperaments of some dogs, it could really be necessary to train them on time, and avoid a lot of stress and mess down the road.
As you take those first steps in training with treats, you can discover the things your dog likes and really get to establish a bond that you wouldn’t otherwise have. On the other hand, you will be utilizing positive reinforcement, meaning that you will encourage good behavior in a constructive manner. Once your pupper realizes that this tasty treat was given to them for that little thing they just did, it will certainly encourage them to do it again. That means that with good training you can actively shape the temperament of your pet and curb those mischievous tendencies. But you also need to remember some key rules:
- Make positive reinforcement and rewarding a constant part of your pet’s life and reward good behavior.
- Achieve a good balance between treats and real life rewards, and you can successfully make positive reinforcement a part of your daily routine.
- Do not depend on dog treats. They are just a tool for training your pup and need to be used in moderation and at the correct times.
What happens if you give a dog too many treats?
While they say that you can’t have too much of a good thing, that’s definitely not true when it comes to dog treats. If you go overboard with treats, the first thing that will happen is that your pet will become spoiled and picky with their food, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Too many dog treats can have short-term health effects such as diarrhea, or long-term ones as overindulging your dog with treats can cause obesity, which in itself comes with a myriad of health issues.
How many treats should I give my dog a day?
It all depends on your dog’s age, size, and the caloric value of the treats. While some mini-sized bites can be just a few calories, some are misleadingly small but packed with ingredients that make them quite calorie-dense. The best way to gauge how many treats to give your pet per day is to ensure that the amount of treats you dole out doesn’t exceed 10% of their overall caloric intake. And if that’s too much math for you, just check the instructions on the bag: most treats tell you how much treats per day is OK based on your pet’s weight.
Should you give dogs treats when training?
Absolutely you should! Positive reinforcement training relies on rewarding your pet for a job well done, so a treat is completely appropriate, both as a reward and motivation for repeating the task. However, this doesn’t mean that your whole training technique should be based on giving out treats, as your pet will quickly realize how to manipulate it to their advantage- e.g. waking you up in the middle of the night to go potty just to get a treat, or refusing to obey commands without a treat. The best way to approach training is by combining treats with praise and loving encouragement- with treats being a secondary way to reward your pet.
How do I get my dog to stop eating treats?
Some dogs just don’t have limits when it comes to food they can consume in a day, especially treats. But there isn’t a magic solution to your pet’s seemingly insatiable hunger for treats: just don’t indulge them. After all, you are the one that is dispensing the goodies, so you are the one that has to limit them, too. Remember that if you go overboard, it can only be detrimental to your dog’s health, so even if they make puppy eyes at you all day long, don’t succumb to their charms.
How many training sessions does a dog need?
It all depends on the dog and the trainer. If you are a newbie or if a dog is of a particularly stubborn breed, it will take more to go through basic obedience training and socialization. In general, training your pet once or twice a week each day during the work week, in short sessions of 15-20 minutes is a solid start. Dogs tend to lose focus in sessions that are longer, so keep it short and to the point- and follow your dog’s progress until you can get a clearer view of how long the sessions will last.
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A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.
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